By Ray Fleming THE Arab League's mission in Syria has started badly. Its leader, the Sudanese General Dabi, visited one of the principal centres of violence on his first day in Syria and said the situation seemed “reassuring so far”.

Reassuring for whom? Today being Friday there will be huge protest demonstrations in many cities following morning prayers and General Dabi and his monitors must be properly prepared to witness what happens. Their task is difficult , even dangerous, but it is essential that they do not depend on the Syrian Army for their programme of inspection. They must meet and talk with the protestors about their experiences. The monitoring is only part of the agreement reached between the Syrian government and the Arab League in November which also calls for the withdrawal of tanks and armoured vehicles from populated areas, the release of all political detainees and negotiations between the Syrian authorities and the opposition. On Wednesday 775 prisoners “without blood on their hands” were released from the 14'000 believed to be held, but none of the agreement's other provisions have been acted on. The more one looks at the situation in Syria the more it seems that the government has only limited power over the Army which has its own agenda. The Army's blatant continuation of its killing even after the arrival of the Arab League monitors bears out this worrying likelihood.